Up until this past year, I had only owned one real pro jersey. When I was around eight years old my parents got me a Jerry Rice jersey. I was a 49ers fan. I still am. If you remember, though, this was during the golden era for the Niners. This is when they were beating everyone. It was good to wear the gold and red.
It was a really simple jersey, but the material was heavy, so I knew it was quality. It wasn’t just bought from some gas station. It was legit. I loved it. I think about that jersey to this day. Red with white numbers and letters. I would not wear it a lot. I may have worn it to school just a handful of times. I wore it for school pictures. I don’t remember that, but I have the picture to prove it. My bowl haircut looked magical against the backdrop of that red jersey. The number 80 shining brightly.
I wanted to be Jerry so badly, but I knew I couldn’t be. He was too good! So, I settled on being JJ Stokes. You probably don’t recognize that name, but he was the WR2 on the team and was a stud. I thought he was the unsung hero of the team. Rice was my favorite, but Stokes was immediately after him.
I loved that jersey so much that I could not bear to wear it. I don’t know why. Maybe I was afraid it would get ripped or damaged. I just couldn’t wear it. I had to protect it and preserve it until I was grown up enough to wear such a wonderful jersey around. I hid my Jerry Rice jersey. I hid it under my mattress. It was the safest place. It would be protected.
Keep in mind, I was eight. I still had not mastered getting up in the middle of the night and using the restroom. I don’t know if eight is too old to be wetting the bed, but I did on occasion. The dreams I had were just as powerful as my decision to protect my jersey… that was lying underneath me in my bed… When I remembered that my jersey was under my bed… it was far too late. It had been months. The bright red and white numbers had been tarnished. I had soiled my most prized possession. I had ruined it!
I have been thinking about that jersey a lot recently. First, I do want to apologize to Mr. Rice and the 49ers organization. My lack of foresight and self control was by no means a reflection about how I felt. It was quite the opposite. However, there are some lessons to be learned from this tale.
1) There are times in our lives where we are so focused on protecting the things we love most that we actually lose sight of their significance or insignificance. The jersey would have brought me much more joy had I worn it often. Then again, it was just a jersey. Football is just a game. I would soon grow out of that jersey. It was only temporary. It would not define who I was.
2) Had I worn that jersey I probably would have made more friends, done better in recess football games, and scored higher on my ACT and had gotten in Stanford. We all have talents and abilities – wear them loud and proud. Don’t hide them!
3) We make mistakes. It is in our nature to screw up. To pee all over our favorite article of clothing. But we can fix it. We can bounce back and change. I’m a firm believer of learning from mistakes. I no longer hide my clothes under my mattress. I hang them up and just look at them.